Family Feud: Maras-Rooneys, better known as Giants-Steelers
FILE - In this Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016 file photo New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) drops back to pass in the first half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos in New Orleans. The Saints play the Detroit Lions on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/John McCusker, File)
The Giants vs. the Steelers. Or sometimes referred to as the Maras against the Rooneys for their family business roots.
They meet in a huge game Sunday in Pittsburgh that could clear up some of the muddled playoff picture.
New York (8-3) is among the hottest teams in football with six straight victories. Not that it's helped the Giants move much closer to the Cowboys in the NFC East.
But the Giants are in control of the NFC wild-card picture, even if their victories haven't looked too pretty.
''We have everything right in front of us. We don't feel the need ... really inside of this locker room, we don't care about anyone's opinion,'' running back Rashad Jennings says. ''Someone could put us best, someone could put us worst, it doesn't matter. We have to go out and find a way to win.''
The Steelers (6-5) are in a tighter spot, tied atop the AFC North with Baltimore, to whom they already have lost. When healthy, the Steelers have looked like a Super Bowl contender. But they've also had some real duds.
They will need to eliminate those stinkers and play solidly the rest of the way, Ben Roethlisberger says.
''Anytime you get to November, December, January football, you have to be at your best, you have to be hot, and we are playing one of the best football teams in the NFL,'' he says. ''They are coming to our place, it has a playoff feel and atmosphere, and it has to. I am sure that they feel the same way.
''You have to have that mentality at this time of the year because you really can't afford to lose any more games.
The action began on a rare week with no division matchups with Dallas' 17-15 victory at Minnesota on Thursday night.
Dez Bryant caught four passes for 84 yards and the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, helping Dallas improve to 11-1 with its 11th straight victory.
Sam Bradford threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Jerick McKinnon with 25 seconds to play, but the 2-point conversion failed for the Vikings (6-6). They played without coach Mike Zimmer after he had emergency eye surgery Wednesday night. Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer directed the team.
Off this week are Tennessee (6-6) and Cleveland (0-12).
Several emerging players are worth watching here as the Falcons try to stay alone atop the NFC South and the Chiefs pursue the Raiders in the AFC West.
Chiefs rookie WR Tyreek Hill last week became the first player since Gale Sayers in 1965 to score on a kickoff return, a run and a catch in the same game.
The Falcons, known for their powerful offense, are getting strong play from LB Vic Beasley Jr., second in the NFC with 9+ sacks, and safety Keanu Neal, who leads all rookies with 72 tackles and has four forced fumbles.
Denver (7-4) at Jacksonville (2-9)
Look for a low-scoring affair as the Jaguars try to snap a six-game slide. They have lost all four at home this season, placing coach Gus Bradley's job in serious jeopardy. But his specialty, defense, is coming on and the Jags rank sixth overall.
We all know how good Denver's D can be, and here's a stunning stat: The Broncos have scored a league-high 93 points, or 35 percent of their season total, off turnovers. They have 20 takeaways; the Jaguars are a league-worst minus-15 in turnover margin.
Denver has won 28 straight games when winning the turnover battle, the longest current streak in the NFL, and it leads the league in sacks (35) and quarterback hits (89).
Not only have the Bucs won three in a row, but they beat Kansas City and Seattle the past two weeks, holding them to a combined 22 points. Rookie DE Noah Spence comes off a superb month in which he had 11 tackles, 2+ sacks and two forced fumbles.
San Diego's Antonio Gates was blanked in the win at Houston, not even targeted for the first time in 77 games. He's three TD catches short of breaking Tony Gonzalez's NFL record of 111 for a tight end.
The spiraling Rams, who have given up 63 points over the past 64:02 of game action, are the perfect victim for Tom Brady to get his 201st victory, which would be an NFL record for quarterbacks. He's currently tied with Peyton Manning.
''It's probably the most important stat. ... There's no surprise,'' Saints QB Drew Brees says of Brady. ''Listen, he's earned it. He will go down as certainly one of the best, if not the best, for that reason. The guy's a winner. He's a proven winner. ... There's been a lot of players come through there while he's been there and it's been a very consistent result, all the time. I'm sure there's a lot of people in that building that deserve credit, but none more so than him.''
As the Patriots chase home-field advantage in the AFC for the playoffs - they lead the AFC East by two games over Miami, who they have beaten - Brady has been sensational since returning from his four-game ''Deflategate'' suspension. Brady has 2,201 passing yards, 18 TDs, one interception and a 116.7 passer rating.
Miami (7-4) at Baltimore (6-5)
Miami has won six in a row, and hasn't taken seven straight since 1985, Dan Marino's third season. Solidly in the playoff race, the Dolphins are getting solid contributions from Ryan Tannehill throwing the ball and Jay Ajayi running it despite a banged-up offensive line.
Baltimore's defense has been superb as the Ravens have taken three of their past four games. Ranking second overall and first against the run, the Ravens will be a tough test for Ajayi especially.
If it comes down to the kicking game, Baltimore has the league's only perfect placekicker. Justin Tucker is 27 for 27 on field goals and has made all his extra points.
Buffalo (6-5) at Oakland (9-2)
The Black Hole is truly that for the Bills. Buffalo is 0-8 in Oakland since 1966.
But a victory not only would be the Bills' 400th regular-season win, it would boost their playoff chances somewhat. Remember, they haven't been in the postseason since the 1999 campaign.
Oakland's sensational comeback win against Carolina after blowing a huge lead kept the Raiders atop the highly competitive AFC West. It also solidified QB Derek Carr's credentials - and guts. He left after badly damaging his right pinkie, then returned with a glove on his throwing hand to lead the rally.
Detroit (7-4) at New Orleans (5-6)
Matthew Stafford is having his best season, and he'll need all of his skills and weapons to keep up with Drew Brees.
Stafford has led seven game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime in 2016; the Lions are the first team with seven wins when trailing in the fourth quarter in the team's first 11 games of a season. No QB has had eight such drives in one season.
That's one of the rare achievements Brees hasn't managed. Last week, he passed for 310 yards with four touchdowns, and rushed for a TD. He leads the NFL with 3,587 yards and 30 TDs passing. It's Brees' ninth season with at least 30 TDs passing, tied for the record, and he has a TD pass in an NFL-record 60 straight home outings.
Houston (6-5) at Green Bay (5-6)
The Texans have the better record and lead their division, the weak AFC South. Yet nearly everywhere the perception is Green Bay, third in the NFC North, is the better team.
Houston's $72 million, four-year investment in quarterback Brock Osweiler isn't paying off, so much so that after last weekend's loss, coach Bill O'Brien was asked about benching Osweiler.
His slump is encouraging for the Packers' suspect secondary.
Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers is on a terrific streak even while the running game has been mediocre and the blocking has been so-so.
Without Andrew Luck, the Colts were no match for the Steelers on Thanksgiving night. Luck has gone through the NFL's concussion protocol and should be behind center for another prime-time affair.
The Jets make just enough mistakes each week to be among the league's biggest flops after going 10-6 in 2015. Many of their big-ticket players have let them down, and here's a chance to strut before a nationwide audience.
Carolina (4-7) at Seattle (7-3-1)
The last thing the Panthers need when facing Seattle's stingy defense and strong pass rush is an injury-depleted offensive line. Unfortunately for Cam Newton and Carolina, that's the reality.
Carolina stayed on the West Coast after the 35-32 loss at Oakland, while the Seahawks flew back cross-country from Tampa after a 14-5 defeat in which the offense was invisible. Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham should be more productive against the Panthers.
Washington (6-4-1) at Arizona (4-6-1)
The Redskins owned the second NFC wild-card spot heading into the weekend. Their offense has been dynamic recently, with Kirk Cousins to Jamison Crowder the main connection.
Both teams can begin thinking about next season after recent slumps.
The Eagles have lost four straight on the road, but they're 9-1 vs. the AFC since 2014. Cincinnati is 1-5-1 in the past seven games, and a true sign of their malaise: Mike Nugent has missed his past three PAT kicks and four of the past eight.
San Francisco (1-10) at Chicago (2-9)
One of these teams will mess up their April draft standing by winning this. Or maybe these two will tie 0-0.
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